Thomas Perry should be more popular than he is. I would submit that
part of the problem is one of his greatest strengths: when you pick
up a Thomas Perry novel, you never quite know where he is going to
take you, even when it seems as if there is only one potential
destination. This is certainly true of NIGHTLIFE, Perry's latest
and arguably best novel.
The dark protagonist of NIGHTLIFE is a woman of many names and
identities who, as we eventually come to learn, was born Charlene
Buckner. Every man of even moderate success has met someone like
the haunted and dangerous Buckner, who uses her beauty, skills and
knowledge to seduce and entice wealthy men. Buckner, as we quickly
learn, does a bit more than that, however; she also murders them.
She makes a particular mistake when her victim is Dennis Poole,
whose cousin Hugo is a West Coast underworld figure. Hugo suspects
that Dennis's death might be connected to Hugo's business and hires
Los Angeles P.I. Joe Pitt to begin an investigation.
Pitt finds himself at loggerheads with Portland homicide detective
Catherine Hobbes, who is officially investigating Poole's death and
who initially has little time for Pitt or his employer. But as Pitt
and Hobbes come to realize who married Poole, what at first seems
like an exciting but typical cat-and-mouse chase begins. Be
forewarned, however: this chase is anything but typical. Buckner is
extremely adept at changing her identity, including her looks, and
using her sensuality with a sinister twist. She slowly comes to
blame Hobbes for the difficulties that have befallen her --- the
quiet, sinister logic by which she does so is chilling --- and
before too long Buckner is pursuing Hobbes with a grim and
While the ending is perhaps inevitable, the conclusion is anything
but --- you'll see what I mean when you read it --- and Perry
provides surprises from almost the first page to the last.
Additionally, Perry has created that rarity with Catherine Hobbes:
a totally believable female police detective who doesn't
need… But I'm giving too much away already. Pick up a copy
and be introduced.
Reading NIGHTLIFE is such an addicting experience that it should be
available by prescription only. Fortunately, you can get it on
demand. And you won't be sorry if you do so.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 13, 2011